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Raoul: New criminal justice reform laws build on data-driven, commonsense approaches

Sen RaoulSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) lauded  the signing of several criminal justice reform measures he sponsored this year as part of a larger push for commonsense, data-driven approaches to law enforcement, sentencing, incarceration and the reintegration of ex-offenders.

“Illinois is again pushing forward as a pioneer of criminal justice reform – because it saves money, because it saves lives and communities and because it’s the right thing to do,” Raoul said. “These new laws on juvenile justice, expungement, access to licensed professions and sex offender registration policies will help bring the realities of criminal justice in line with its aims of genuine public safety and lasting rehabilitation.”

Senate gives nod to greater opportunity in licensed professions

raoul cps 051816Legislation would loosen ban on ex-offenders in barbering, roofing and funeral services

SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured the Senate’s approval today for a measure that would open up several licensed professions to some ex-offenders at the discretion of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Individuals who have committed misdemeanors and non-violent felonies unrelated to their chosen professions would be eligible to earn licenses to be barbers, roofers or funeral directors – and the department would be required to consider mitigating factors such as how long ago the crime occurred, the applicant’s age at the time and whether the offense would have any bearing on the person’s ability to do the job in question.

“So many occupations in Illinois require licenses that a blanket ban presents a significant and unjustified barrier to employment and self-sufficiency and ultimately increases the risk of recidivism,” said Raoul, who served on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. The Commission recommended a critical reexamination of laws that mandate the denial of a professional license to someone with past criminal convictions.

In Illinois, 24 percent of the workforce must have a state-issued occupational or professional license in order to work, and current state law stipulates that the state either may or must deny 118 types of licenses to applicants with criminal records. Thirty-nine percent of Illinois adults have a criminal history that could exclude them from some jobs or licenses.

“When men and women are released from prison in Illinois and find that they can no longer practice an occupation they are trained to do, the state is depriving them – essentially without due process – of their ability to support themselves, meet financial obligations such as child support and take pride in their work,” Raoul said. “This legislation gives the licensing authority broad discretion to consider each applicant on a case-by-case basis and make a decision that benefits the profession and the economy instead of enforcing a one-size-fits-all ban that doesn’t make the public any safer.”

House Bill 5973 now goes back to the House for concurrence in changes the Senate made to the measure.

Raoul: Body cams, other policing and criminal justice reforms take effect in the new year

raoul DRSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) reminded Illinoisans that the start of the new year will bring sweeping, positive changes to the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system accomplish their vital work. On Jan. 1, 2016, several landmark justice measures, including long-awaited standards for the use of police body cameras, will take effect.

“For far too long, our criminal justice system has reinforced racial disparities and provided poor outcomes for taxpayers, ex-offenders, families and communities alike,” Raoul said. “We are finally seeing a bipartisan movement to examine and, when necessary, overhaul law enforcement, sentencing and corrections practices so they’re fair and they work.”

Raoul sponsored and secured passage of a major policing reform measure in May. Changes in the law that take effect in the new year include

  • Establishing minimum policies and standards for the use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies that choose to deploy the uniform-mounted devices
  • Requiring an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and creating a mechanism for the appointment of a special prosecutor in sensitive cases, including alleged police misconduct
  • Prohibiting the use of chokeholds by police
  • Expanding mandatory law enforcement officer training to include cultural competency, implicit bias, the proper use of force and interacting with sexual assault victims and persons with disabilities
  • Requiring officers to issue a “stop receipt,” including the officer’s name and badge number, to a pedestrian stopped for any reason
  • Creating a database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during a misconduct investigation, so rogue cops aren’t hired unknowingly by other departments

On Jan. 31, 2016, a task force assembled under the new law is scheduled to submit its recommendations on licensing police officers in Illinois for added accountability.

Raoul, who serves on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, also sponsored two important juvenile justice laws that will take effect Jan. 1.

One will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts and give judges greater discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Another will prevent juveniles from being committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses. It also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense.

“Whether it’s a young African-American man encountering a police officer on the street, a mother concerned about her children’s safety on the walk to school or an ex-offender trying to turn his life around and support his family, we are working hard to achieve the American dream of equal access to safety, security and justice,” Raoul said. “As the Commission continues its task and as both lawmakers and the public become more aware of the disparities and shortcomings in our criminal justice system, I’m confident we’ll see additional policies enacted to supplement the major reforms poised to take effect.”

 Raoul: Chicago police accountability task force major step toward systemic change

Raoul: Chicago police accountability task force major step toward systemic changeCHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the dismissal of police superintendent Garry McCarthy and the City of Chicago’s appointment of a task force on police accountability:

Yesterday’s announcements represent a positive step out of a dark time in our city. While no individual is solely responsible for the crisis of public confidence that has converged on the murder of Laquan McDonald and the culture of inaction and obfuscation that hid it from public view for more than a year, Superintendent McCarthy’s departure is a necessary step. It sends a signal of seriousness. But just as replacing a head coach does not automatically correct deeper weaknesses within a team, new leadership will not necessarily bring about the systemic change desperately needed in Chicago’s law enforcement and criminal justice apparatus.

That’s why I’m encouraged by the appointment of a police accountability task force made up of individuals with the integrity and experience to move beyond platitudes to real reform.

The choice of Deval Patrick, who was raised on the South Side, headed the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and served two terms as governor of Massachusetts, to advise the task force is a wise one. I’m optimistic that he will bring to the endeavor outside eyes but also a deep love for this city.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson, former State Police director Hiram Grau, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, University of Chicago law professor and former Cook County public defender Randolph Stone and former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta will round out the group, lending valuable experience and insight to the critical task of restoring public trust in the police. To move that process forward, they must determine patterns and practices that need to be overhauled. And our city’s leadership must exercise the will to follow their counsel.

I also stand behind Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to undertake a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. Rep. Elgie Sims and I met with her yesterday prior to her announcement, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on statewide policy solutions that build on the landmark law enforcement reform legislation Rep. Sims and I passed this year. The road ahead is long, but the journey has begun.

Sen. Kwame Raoul

Senator Kwame Raoul

13th District

Years served: 2004 - Present

Committee assignments: Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Judiciary (Chairperson); Public Health; Committee of the Whole; Energy and Public Utilities; Executive; Committee on Restorative Justice (Co-Chairperson).

Biography: Attorney; born September 30, 1964; Bachelor's degree from DePaul University; J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law; has two children.